Re: [asa] The Charybdis of the Modern Synthesis

From: wjp <>
Date: Tue Sep 29 2009 - 11:43:16 EDT


First, I am using the term "teleological evolution" because I find others
using it or something like it.

For one Denis Lamoureux is listed on the web as holding such a view.
Perhaps he can respond as to whether he does and, if he does, what
he means by it.

Second, Mike speaks of non-teleological biology

He says,
"a teleological view of evolution likens it to a biotic process, roughly
analogous to ontogeny. There is a form and logic to evolution.
One might even say that evolution is a function or a program."

Simon Conway Morris appears to dance around the issue.
He wonders whether there isn't more to evolution than
chance and survival filters. He wonders about convergence
and whether we can really explain the patterns evident
in biological species. This may not point to a designer,
at least not a immanent one, but it uses that kind of

As I originally said, it seems that teleological is being used to stand in
for a non-Darwinian, more determinative evolution, one that has perhaps
something like attractors, and an understanding of why those attractors
and not others.

I don't see any of this a particularly teleological, but it may, as Mike
suggests lead us to wonder, sort of like an anthropic principle.


On Mon, 28 Sep 2009 17:52:09 -0400, "Nucacids" <> wrote:
> Hi Bill,
> I just saw Gregory nudging me to reply, so I thought I would oblige.
> You write:
> “My initial problem is with the use of the word telological.
> It seems that for some, at least, telology is in the eye of the
> beholder. To be able to discover certain laws or propensities that
> engender or favor certain biologies is not teleology. Because life may
> have evolved in atmospheres and resulted in many life forms flying is
> not telology, not at least as I define it.”
> To a large extent it is in the eye of the beholder. Since no one (in
> science or out of science) seems to possess a methodology to objectively
> detect teleology, how could it be otherwise? After all, recognizing
> teleology is akin to recognizing another mind.
> But as I see it, this is not the huge problem that many would think it to
> be. For one thing, it’s a problem that cuts both ways. For example,
> scientists originally used the concept of preadaptation, a concept many
> recognize(d) to have teleological connotations. Gould came along to do
> some metaphysical house-cleaning and replaced the term with exaptation.
> If a non-teleologist prefers to think of a preadaptation as an exaptation,
> then as you mentioned, it’s in the eye of the beholder. According to the
> individual beholder, either all preadaptations are really exaptations or
> some preadaptations truly are preadaptations (or nudges).
> My approach is to recognize that any “teleology detection” will
> necessarily have a subjective element to it. While this may mean such
> detection cannot ever rise to the level of science, it does not mean an
> investigation built around teleological assumptions is doomed and useless.
> BTW, I should mention that my original posting did not make any claim of
> detecting teleology. What I wrote was this: “And in one sense, this is
> understandable, as symbiogenesis, neutral theory, lateral gene transfer,
> and deep homology all open the door, even if slightly, to a teleological
> interpretation of evolution.”
> As I see it, the many advances in molecular and evolutionary biology that
> have occurred over the last several decades have made it easier, not
> harder, for the beholder to envision a teleological process. Easier, not
> harder. So what you then do is take that mental image, use it to
> formulate testable hypotheses, and explore the living world.
> Mike
> ----- Original Message --

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Received on Tue Sep 29 11:44:37 2009

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